While New Orleans will remain in Phase 2 a little longer, Gov. John Bel Edwards is expected to provide details of the next phase of reopening for the state on Friday, Sept. 11.

Calling it one of the hardest decisions he has had to make, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced today (Thursday, Sept. 10) that Louisiana will move into Phase 3 of its reopening at the end of day Friday, Sept. 11.

While the state, on Sept. 10, reached a total of 155,419 COVID-19 cases—still the highest number of cases per capita in the nation–and is nearing 5,000 deaths, the new case count for the day was 499 out of 10,577 new tests, which is a positivity rate of less than five percent. And the state’s numbers have generally been trending in a downward direction over the last few weeks.

“The data is positive enough that we will be going into Phase 3,” he said.

While the state will move to the next phase of reopening, Mayor LaToya Cantrell says that decision is a couple of weeks away for New Orleans, adding that she and other city officials want to gauge how the return to in-person school will impact the spread of COVID-19 before easing more restrictions.

And when it does happen, Mayor Cantrell says Phase 3 for New Orleans could look very different than it does for the rest of the state.

“The city of New Orleans is in Phase 2, and we will remain in place,” Cantrell said during a press briefing held with NOLA Public School officials today to provide an update on the return to in-person school, which is slated to start on Monday, Sept. 14 for some students. “We will continue to let the data drive us. And where the data has driven us today is to ensure that kids are returning to school starting next week.”

To be sure, that very fact is part of what has made his decision to move the state forward, says Gov. Edwards. Citing college campuses and K-12 schools that have recently reopened, along with Hurricane Laura evacuees dispersed across the state and increased activity over the Labor Day weekend, Gov. Edwards is concerned about just how “all of that activity could influence where we are two to three weeks from now.”

There was an uptick in activity in the New Orleans area over the holiday weekend, with increased movement in the French Quarter and even a large second live gathering under the Claiborne overpass filmed live on Facebook.

Still, Edwards says he wants to move to Phase 3 for consistency and transparency, adding that he will provide details on Phase 3 on Friday, Sept. 11.

The Governor has previously mentioned that Louisiana saw an uptick in cases the weeks following the Memorial Day holiday and has expressed concern about seeing a repeat in the wake of Labor Day.

“We are going to be somewhat anxious about the next couple to three weeks,” Edwards said.

After moving into Phase II, new restrictions, which included a state-wide mask mandate, size limits on gatherings, and the closure of bars, were added to help limit the spread of the virus.

During Tuesday’s press briefing, Edwards said that although the state will move into Phase 3, certain precautions will remain in place and suggested that another surge in cases could result in going back to tighter restrictions.

Social distancing, routine hand-washing, and mask-wearing will likely remain the norm in Phase 3. Also, individuals over the age of 65, those with underlying conditions that predispose them to worse outcomes, and anyone who is sick will still be encouraged to stay home as much as possible as Louisiana moves into Phase III, Gov. Edwards said.

“If we want to be successful . . . and not move backward, we do need everyone to understand that Phase 3 is not a lifting of all restrictions. It is not some pronouncement that we don’t have COVID-19 in Louisiana, because we do. We do need people to do their part.”

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